Marlene M. Bell is an eclectic mystery writer, artist, and photographer from beautiful East Texas. She and her husband Gregg have over 40 years of raising sheep together and currently have a flock of Katahdin Hair Sheep.
Marlene’s Annalisse series has received numerous honors including the Independent Press Award for Best Mystery, FAPA’s President’s Gold Awards, and Global Book Award for Best Cozy Mystery. In addition, she offers the first of her children’s picture books, Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! based on true events from the Bell’s Ewephoric Ranch. The simple text and illustrations are a touching tribute of compassion and love between a little girl and her lamb.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
My writing career came out of a request made by the parents of our local 4-H club. With so little available in print on how to raise sheep, they wanted me to write on the subject. In 2009, I published a non-fiction book and loved the process so much, I jumped deeper into writing fiction as a next step to becoming a better writer.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
My first job began right out of high school where I worked at the county airport as a receptionist. I learned a great deal about aircraft and working with customers in business. My next book brings in some of the pilot and flight training knowledge I came away with from years working at the airport.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
The first three books in the series had non-descript titles which made my books harder to categorize in the mystery genre. In book four, I wanted to correct this. Copper Waters better suits what happens in the novel without going too far away from the original series naming process. This title was one of the easiest to come up with due to the subject matter and ending.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
In Copper Waters, I wanted a fresh look to the cover, offering a design contest online. Several cover designers entered. One designer from London clearly won my heart with his fern and key design. Since book 4, I’ve had this graphic artist re-design two of the original books in the series. This gave the series a more cohesive look. Copper Waters’ book cover is my favorite to date. It’s simple and clean, yet tells the story of New Zealand.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
Because the entire Annalisse series is heavy with travel to foreign countries, I do my best to bring the reader into the scene by using description to show readers what it feels like to be on site with the main character. Readers who enjoy being taken away from their daily lives love to imagine travel in exotic places. Many of us are unable to travel, so my perfect reader is someone who travels through their books!
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
Researching the locale and seeing a story come to fruition through the eyes of my readers. With each installment, I see my writing improve because I imagine being the reader…the sights, smells, and sounds bring stories to life. Sensory details enhance the reader experience.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I’m writing a standalone mystery currently in developmental editing. The standalone is sharpening my ability to characterize an entirely different cast of characters. The book cover is based on a sunset photo I took myself on our Texas ranch. The story also takes place in East Texas, which is different from the series books. Photography plays a big part in my writing as well as the home-based business of sheep-related gifts I’ve had since 1985. Ewephoric. When I’m not writing or feeding sheep, my mail order clients make life interesting.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.